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Bone Health

Many understand the function and purpose of bones: support the structure of the body, protect the internal organs and help people move. Two lesser-known purposes are that bones store nutrients in the body and make blood cells. The former functions listed are important but these other functions are vital. These are the functions that are the main focus when discussing bone health. One condition that is a focal point when discussing bone health is osteoporosis, which is when the bones have become weak and can lead to fractures and deformity. According to Mahan & Raymond (2017), the percentage of adults over the age of 50 with osteoporosis is about 9%, where about 49% have low bone health. There is a high number of individuals experiencing bone health issues in the United States, so lets dive into this a further!

What is happening in the body when bone density is low or osteoporosis has been diagnosed? One misconception about bones is that once formed they never change. Bones are actually constantly being broken down and remodeled. Osteoclasts are responsible for breaking down the bones and releasing the minerals, like calcium, into the blood. Then osteoblasts come in and reform the bones using protein, vitamins and minerals. When bones have low density or health, then there is likely a problem in the reforming of the bone, which could be for a number of reasons. This could be due to a high need for stored calcium or a low supply of building material, such as protein.

What could lead to osteoporosis?

  • Age, sex

  • Diet low in calcium and vitamin D

  • Diet low in magnesium, phosphate, vitamin K and zinc

  • Diet low in protein or too high in protein

  • Diet high in sodium

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Excessive exercise but lack of nutrients to maintain optimal health

  • Low estrogen (premenopause and menopause)

  • Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption and smoking

  • Certain medications that impact absorption and excretion of calcium

  • Conditions that increase risk of osteoporosis (Mahan & Raymond, 2017): Crohn’s Disease, celiac disease, and thyroid problems.


Many understand the symbiotic relationship between calcium, vitamin D and bone health, but another key component is protein. Protein plays an integral role in the formation and structural part of the bone (Bonjour, 2005). It is recommended to have at least 0.8g/kg and no more than 2.0 g/kg of protein daily (Bonjour, 2011). This equates to about the size of a deck of cards per meal and a tablespoon for a snack. There should be a mix of animal, fish and plant based proteins to get a variety of nutrients into the body. It is essential to obtain all of the building blocks, or amino acids, to synthesize the protein in the body necessary to make bone.

One type of protein to look out for is collagen. The production of collagen slows down a lot after the age of 30 and continues to decrease with age, yet another reason the risk of osteoporosis increases. According to a study conducted by König, Oesser, Scharla, Zdzieblik, & Gollhofer (2018), specific collagen peptides showed an improvement in bone formation. Collagen protein is becoming a popular supplement, but if one is feeling up to the challenge, making homemade bone broth is a fantastic source of collagen. Bone brother also provides a number of other health benefits, such as supporting a healthy gut.

Key Takeaway Points

  • Bones do more than just support the body, they store key nutrients

  • There are many factors that can impact bone health

  • Osteoporosis is avoidable

  • Focus on balanced diet

  • Keep active

  • Get enough protein (but not too much)


Bonjour, J.P. (2005). Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 24(6 Suppl) 526S-536S

Bonjour, J.P. (2011). Protein intake and bone health. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 81(23) 134-142

König, D., Oesser, S., Scharla, S., Zdzieblik, D., & Gollhofer, A. (2018). Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients10(1), 97. doi:10.3390/nu10010097

Mahan, L. K., & Raymond, J.L. (2017). Krause’s food and the nutrition care process. (14th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders

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